Tales and tongue twisters in peninsular Mayan. Recovering ancient wisdom through native rap

On November 11th, the virtual presentation of the book-album K’ak’alt’aano’ob yéetel tsolxikino’ob ich maayat’aan (‘Tales and tongue twisters in peninsular Maya’), organized by the Australian Embassy in Mexico and the Centre for Research and Higher Studies in Social Anthropology CIESAS, was held, which represents the sum of the artistic work of Mayan rappers, linguists, illustrators and academics for the revitalization of the peninsular Mayan language.

On this occasion, the virtual panel was made up of His Excellency Mr. Remo Moretta, Ambassador of Australia in Mexico, Dr. José Antonio Flores Farfán, ADLI-CIESAS coordinator, musician Enrique Toussaint, researcher Fidencio Briceño Chel, plastic artist Marcelo Jiménez and rapper Pat Boy, under the moderation of Ximbo, representative of national hip hop.

The host, the Australian Ambassador Remo Moretta, after welcoming the participants on behalf of his country, said that, in Australia, the linguistic revitalization of the native people is a state policy, whose objective is to empower its native people.

The Australian ambassador highlighted the importance of the oral tradition of his country’s native people, which constitutes a fundamental component of their cultural identity, as well as of their national identity. He mentioned that in his country, native language revitalization is protected and promoted with resources that the State allocates specifically for these purposes, which it also shares with other countries, such as Mexico.

Dr. José Antonio Flores Farfán, coordinator of the Digital Collection of Indigenous Languages ​​(ADLI) of CIESAS, emphasized the value and importance of this album for the revitalization of the language, as this recording is a living memory of the cultural resistance of the peninsular Mayan people.

In addition, this production with the Editorial del Lirio label is the sum of the record production of two books with previous ones with the same title, Conejas de un Boxito and Trabalenguas mayas, in Spanish, which together allow us to listen and read the vitality of a culture as important for the whole world as everyone as the Mayan.

The conceptual richness that gives rise to the fusion of rap, tales and tongue twisters with the research that helps to find the cultural and linguistic relevance in this production, also makes it an important didactic resource both for schools and for learning with linguistic and cultural importance of this native language in a more community environment.

In his speech, Dr. Flores Farfán regretted that there are still ideologies that lead the Mayan not to recognize themselves as speakers of their own language, for fear of discrimination.

He added that this album, which contains tales and tongue twisters, whose origin is ancestral, constitutes an intergenerational bridge in time, which communicates the grandparents with the young Mayan rappers of today, through tales and tongue twisters, which like jewels of original verbal art also entails a whole series of learnings for good living.

It is an innovative educational resource to learn Mayan, which brings to the present the ancient wisdom contained in the ancestral memory of the Mayan people of the peninsula, through tales that travel in time, through original oral tradition, now revitalized by linguistically diverse contemporary rap, recorded on an electronic disk that accompanies a digitized book.

According to Flores Farfán, art, and in this case rap, is a creative mechanism for the linguistic revitalization of the peninsular Mayan, since it allows the reconnection of the Mayan generations that for different reasons do not currently communicate.

For his part, the Mayan academic Fidencio Briceño, a researcher at the National Institute of Anthropology and History, said that this album is a contribution that helps what he called the refunctionalisation of the peninsular Mayan language in all possible communicative areas, of which the rap is one of those manifestations.

Linguist Fidencio Briceño added that this album has the documentary value represented by the tales and tongue twisters that are now contained in this recording, which brings up to date, through rap, the voices of grandparents, who communicate to new generations their knowledge contained in the advice of the ancestral past, now rapped in the present time of the Mayan communities of the Yucatan peninsula.

Then, in the presentation of this album Tales and Tongue Twisters in peninsular Mayan, it was the turn of the famous Mexican jazz artist Enrique Toussaint, who, together with his brothers Eugenio and Fernando, founded the Sacbé group in honour of the Mayan culture.

The bassist of the Sacbé group, Enrique Toussaint, said that, as musicians, since 2011, he and his brothers, especially Eugenio, participated in the musicalisation of different experiences aimed at revitalizing the Mayan language, and he believed that this album it is a new boost to the vitality of this culture, among young people, now through rap.

Then came the participation of the artist, cartoonist and Mayan cultural promoter Marcelo Jiménez Santos who said that this album is an act of oral resistance combined with the colours of Mayan oral tradition, which celebrates this proposal of the Mayan rappers, since they take an expression like rap, which normally comes from a discourse of violence and death, but in the case of Pat Boy and ADN Maya, this changes to a message of peace and harmony, to use rap as a means of communicating the wisdom contained in their ancestral advice.

Finally, Pat Boy, a rapper from the ADN Maya collective, presented a video-recorded sample of his Mayan rap work and improvised some rhymes in reference to the event. Then he talked about his work with children in workshops in which he shares the appreciation for his mother tongue, the peninsular Maya, through the use of different didactic resources, of which rap is very useful to teach them to value and learn their language maternal.